My Old Grandma Purple Cowboy Hat

May 31, 2007

By Janet Walgren 
I love to go to garage sales. Nothing is more fun than talking to the eager children who are trying their best to help Mom and Grandpa out. I especially like the younger variety that tends to be loud enough for everybody to hear them. I love their honesty; it is refreshing to find an honest lad…a child without guile tends to be a lot of fun when being honest…WAY TO HONEST …horror of horrors!!! And that is why I am the proud new owner of a purple hat.

“Hey miss, ya gonna buy something?” the young lad began in earnest as I stepped out of my car. Spotting a marvelous opportunity for fun, I replied, “Don’t know!!! What ya got?”

My how Grandpa beamed at his budding salesman…bet he will grow up to be director of sales for some super mega corporation with the experience I’m giving him. How can that old gal resist such a cute guy as my grandson? Another sale in the bag, he reassured himself.

Quickly I scanned grandpa’s wares for something that was deliciously embarrassing. Ah! There it is…a purple hat. I grabbed the hat and put it on. “What da ya think? How do I look?” I queried in my best southern drawl.

“Ya look like an OLD COWBOY,” came his frank reply.

“But do OLD COWBOYS wear purple hats?” I responded noticing that Grandpa was a few shades more purple than the hat.

“OLD GRANDMA COWBOYS DO!” he stood firm in his resolve.

The lad’s mother was now on the scene – red faced as grandpa. Both were stuttering trying to interject a comment but I was too quick with my next response.

“But this hat has a purple bow on it.” I protested as I quickly spun the hat around backwards. “Old grandma cowboy hats don’t have bows, do they?”

“Yep they do if they are purple!” he was emphatic.

“Well, who do ya think bought this dumb old purple grandma cowboy hat in the first place?” I asked.

“Don’t know, but it sure is dumb.”

“I bought that hat at Nordstrom’s a long time ago and paid good money for it,” the lad’s blushing mom finally got a word in.

“So, ya gonna buy it?” What a closer this young lad!

“Don’t know if ah gotta nough money.” I pulled the hat down lower on my face as I pulled out my billfold in a grand display to entice the lad’s next response.

His curiosity got the better of him. “Well how much money ya got in there?”

“MICHAEL!!!” burst the chorus of grandpa and mom in unison.

Putting the hat down, and handing Michael a quarter, I stated, “I’m pretty poor, guess ah’d better just settle for this ole bag.”

As I left, grandpa’s neighbor, a friend of mine, shouted, “Hi Janet!” And being neighborly, I waved and shouted my best and loudest HOWDY right back. I could hear grandpa gasp behind me as he considered the reality of my knowing his neighbor.

When I got home and related my fun to Heather, she decided that the memory of Michael the super salesman was worth the purchase of a $2.00 purple hat. She walked the block and a half to make the purchase.

“Hey miss, ya gonna buy something?” Michael was still on the job.

“What da ya think of this?” Heather asked as she walked directly over to the purple hat, picked it up and put it on.

“It made the last guy look like A DUMB OLD GRANDMA COWBOY!” he replied.

“MICHAEL!!!” came the instant shouted reply in unison.

“Did it now? Well then I guess ah’d better buy it.” Grandpa blushed knowingly as Heather handed Michael $2.00.


Tolstoy – How much is enough?

May 29, 2007

By Janet Walgren
When Leo Tolstoy was at the height of his career as a writer of novels, he turned to writing folktales, some rich with poignant illustrations of the futility of lives wasted on the acquisition of stuff. One such folktale entitled How Much Land Does a Man Need? was written in 1886.

An elder sister came to visit her younger sister in the country. The elder was married to a tradesman in town, the younger to a peasant in the village. As the sisters sat over their tea talking, the elder began to boast of the advantages of town life: saying how comfortable they lived there, how well they dressed, what fine clothes her children wore, what good things they ate and drank, and how she went to the theatre, promenades, and entertainments.

The younger sister was piqued, and in turn disparaged the life of a tradesman, and stood up for that of a peasant.

“I would not change my way of life for yours,” said she. “We may live roughly, but at least we are free from anxiety. You live in better style than we do, but though you often earn more than you need, you are very likely to lose all you have. You know the proverb, ‘Loss and gain are brothers twain.’ It often happens that people who are wealthy one day are begging their bread the next. Our way is safer, though a peasant’s life is not a fat one, it is a long one. We shall never grow rich, but we shall always have enough to eat.”

Pahom, master of the house, was lying on the top of the stove as he listened to the women’s chatter.

“It is perfectly true,” thought he. “Busy as we are from childhood tilling mother earth, we peasants have no time to let any nonsense settle in our heads. Our only trouble is that we haven’t land enough. If I had plenty of land, I shouldn’t fear the Devil himself!”

The women finished their tea, Chatted a while about dress, and then cleared away the tea-things and lay down to sleep.

But the Devil had been sitting behind the stove, and had heard all that was said. He was pleased that the peasant’s wife had led her husband into boasting, and that he had said that if he had plenty of land he would not fear the Devil himself.

“All right,” thought the Devil. “We will have a tussle. I’ll give you land enough; and by means of that land I will get you into my power.”

The folktale goes on to tell how Pahom managed to purchase land of his own on terms. The village commune wanted to buy the 300 acres, but the Evil One sowed discord among them and they could not agree on terms so the land was divided and sold, Pahom buying 40 acres.

Pahom was quite content for a time, but then he tired of his neighbors cattle straying into his pastures and imagined that one of his neighbors was stealing his wood, so he complained to the court. After a time, he had become an enemy to his neighbors and had alienated the entire town. Then word came that better land was for sale elsewhere:

Pahom’s heart kindled with desire. He thought:

“Why should I suffer in this narrow hole, if one can live so well elsewhere? I will sell my land and my homestead here, and with the money I will start afresh over there and get everything new…”

Pahom sold his land and homestead for a profit and purchased land elsewhere and worked it for a profit, but was not content. Again he sold his land. As the story winds down, Pahom had heard tale from a tradesman of more land:

“There is more land there than you could cover if you walked a year, and it all belongs to the Bashkirs. They are as simple as sheep, and their land can be got almost for nothing.”

“There now,” thought Pahom, “with my thirteen thousand rubles, why should I get only thirteen hundred acres, and saddle myself with a debt besides? If I take it out there, I can get more than ten times as much for the money.”

Pahom traveled to the land of the Bashkirs where he agreed to purchase as much land as he could walk around in a day from sunrise to sunset for 1000 rubles.

Pahom lay awake all night, and dozed off only just before dawn. Hardly were his eyes closed when he had a dream. He thought he was lying in that same tent and heard somebody chuckling outside. He wondered who it could be, and rose and went out, and he saw the Bashkir Chief sitting in front of the tent holding his sides and rolling about with laughter. Going nearer to the Chief, Pahom asked: “What are you laughing at?” But he saw that it was no longer the Chief, but the dealer who had recently stopped at his house and had told him about the land. Just as Pahom was going to ask, “Have you been here long?” he saw that it was not the dealer, but the peasant who had come up from the Volga, long ago, to Pahom’s old home. Then he saw that it was not the peasant either, but the Devil himself with hoofs and horns, sitting there and chuckling, and before him lay a man barefoot, prostrate on the ground, with only trousers and a shirt on. And Pahom dreamt that he looked more attentively to see what sort of man it was that was lying there, and he saw that the man was dead, and that it was himself! He awoke horror-struck.

Pahom awoke and prepared for the day. He arrived at the appointed spot and placed the 1000 rubles in the Chief of the Bashkirs’s hat and set out on his journey figuring that he could easily do thirty-five miles in a day. He at first walked slowly then picked up his pace. He encircled a choice piece of meadow here and an extra nice piece of land there and then turned at noon to start another leg of his journey.

By evening, he could see that he was still quite a ways from his mark and panicked that all would be lost if he didn’t arrive at his starting point by the setting of the sun.

He took a long breath and ran up the hillock, it was still light there. He reached the top and saw the cap. Before it sat the Chief laughing and holding his sides. Again Pahom remembered his dream, and he uttered a cry: his legs gave way beneath him; he fell forward and reached the cap with his hands.

“Ah, that’s a fine fellow!” exclaimed the Chief, “He has gained much land!”

Pahom’s servant came running up and tried to raise him, but he saw that blood was flowing from his mouth. Pahom was dead.

The Bashkirs clicked their tongues to show their pity.

His servant picked up the spade and dug a grave long enough for Pahom to lie in, and buried him in it. Six feet from his head to his heels was all he needed.

Russian Stories and Legends, Leo Tolstoy

I had the second of two yard sales last Saturday. I am trying to get rid of my excess stuff. My stuff was mingled with other peoples’ excess stuff so there was a lot of stuff to get rid of. I can’t help wonder as I see mothers drive up in expensive vehicles, that cost more than a house used to cost, to drop off their crying children at the babysitters at 5:30 AM so that they can go work for a meager profit, or when I see the proliferation of the Mc Mansions on the foothills and read of the rapidly rising housing foreclosure rates, how much stuff is enough?

I watched the Mormon Tabernacle Choir record their broadcast yesterday. As I heard their stirring voices mingle with the music of the orchestra, and heard the somber cry of the trumpet and bugle playing taps as I watched video clips of military personnel and military graves, my thoughts returned to this Tolstoy folktale and I wondered how much stuff is enough.

I pondered if our lust for stuff cost only just one life, would it be worth it? What if it were your son on the battlefield, what if it was your daughter, what if it was you? What if it were your family – neglected as you fight the battle of commerce just to get more stuff? Then I asked myself the searching question, how much stuff is enough?

I hope that you will ask yourself that question too!

My Day of Rest

May 28, 2007

By Janet Walgren
Today was another wonderful Sabbath. It started with The Mormon Tabernacle Choir performing a Memorial Day Concert and broadcast in the tabernacle at Temple Square. I particularly liked the women’s performance of Distant Land by John Rutter, the mens performance of Bring Him Home from Les miserables, and the playing of Taps set to the backdrop of war memorials and military cemeteries.

After the choir, I attended church with Heidi again. I really like her congregation. I never expected to feel like a babe in my child’s arms but I did; it felt so good to sit next to her and be wrapped up in her arms as we worshiped together.  One sweet thing that happened is that she gave me a necklace during church. She just reached around my neck and put it on me then put her arm around me as we were sitting listening to the talks.

There was a speaker who talked about his prodigal son experience. When he finally decided to turn his life around, he returned to church and met a man at the door. The man asked if he could help the speaker and the speaker said, “I don’t know where I am supposed to be.” The man just hugged him and said, “Welcome Home.” I love that story. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if everyone would be like that?

After church Heidi took me to the cemetery to see my mother’s grave. My mother passed away a year ago April.  The cemetery was full of families visiting the graves of their loved ones and it felt so reassuring to realize how good people really are and how strong families are. I appreciate knowing that families are eternal in nature and that we are all a part of God’s family, His sons, and His daughters. 

This afternoon I spent an hour on the phone with Heather who is in England until the 20th, and then another hour with Jamie. My son, Keli and his wife called also and their call reminded me of the “potential husband interview” in the movie, The Importance of Being Earnest. “How is ______going” he inquired? “Well not as well as I would like,” I responded. “Glad to hear it!!!” he countered.

It seems that most of my children have my life planned out for me. I can come move in to a granny flat, or spare room, and live with them and we will all live happily ever after. How they ever talked their spouses into that one I will never know, but my grandchildren love me for good reason.

I guess it isn’t that far off the future that God has promised to all who obey His commands. “Welcome Home, here is your family, and here are the keys to your mansion!” It’s a lovely dream, a worthy goal, and totally achievable! Best of all, it’s up to you.

Project Gutenberg

May 26, 2007

By Janet Walgren
Lately I have been spending a lot of time on the internet. I come home at lunch time and surf blogs hoping that my daughter who is in England will come online so that we can chat via IM. And again at night I eat my dinner at my desk hoping for an IM conversation and waiting for my daily email from her so that I can post it on her internship blog. Yesterday, I was exploring the Riverglen Press website and I learned about Project Gutenberg, a website that publishes out-of-copyright eBooks. They have over 20,000 free books and 100,000 titles available. I was intrigued; I collect antique books, and I have one set in particular that all my children want. I was planning on making an electronic copy for each of them so I looked through their online catalog hoping for an easy way out. I found that I have at least a shelf full of books that I could contribute to their collection. This is very exciting to me (and it will probably be exciting to the owners of the blogs that I have been posting too many comments on lately).  I could use a good project. The project runs on volunteer power and there are several ways that you can contribute so if you have spare time or spare change on your hands and would like to contribute, click this link to volunteer. Now if only I could get my email…

The realities of life

May 25, 2007

By Janet Walgren
A friend just emailed this to me and I wanted to share it with my readers. She received it from her niece. Thanks Shauna!

As we grow up, we learn that even the one person that wasn’t supposed to ever let you down probably will. You will have your heart broken probably more than once and it’s harder every time. You’ll break hearts too, so remember how it felt when yours was broken. You’ll fight with your best friend. You’ll blame a new love for things an old one did. You’ll cry because time is passing too fast, and you’ll eventually lose someone you love. So take too many pictures, laugh too much, and love like you’ve never been hurt because every sixty seconds you spend upset is a minute of happiness you’ll never get back. Don’t be afraid that your life will end, be afraid that it will never begin.


“As a man thinketh…”

May 24, 2007

By Janet Walgren
It was twenty years ago this week when I packed up all my worldly possessions and put them into storage and took my four young daughters (ages 3, 6, 8, and 11) camping for four months. I love to camp; some of my most cherished childhood memories involve camping. My dad was a Boy Scout master and one of my dad’s near kin was a professional scouter so our family camped a lot. I learned to swim in Yellow Stone Lake while camping and I always caught the biggest trout in our family fishing tournaments. I was too young to notice that the trout was already gutted, cleaned and ready for the frying pan. My parents always made camping a special time and I loved it, and I love them for it.

So now it was my turn to be the parent only this time it was different. There was no home to go home to. Yes we were homeless – by choice, and I was hiding my little ones until I could get some needed legal protection in place. Their lives depended on it.

I was thankful for the knowledge and skills that I had acquired that allowed me to make this one of the best summers of my children’s lives. If you were to ask them today, “What was your favorite childhood memory?” All of them would tell you it was the summer that we went camping.

Thought is one of the most powerful forces in the universe. Thought turns into knowledge, and knowledge turns into actions, and actions turn into to consequences that compound and compile until they eventually determine our life’s destiny. It was my thoughts, my childhood memories that caused me to gain the skills that I needed the summer I went camping. It was my knowledge and understanding of the gospel of Jesus Christ and faith in God that gave me the courage to do it. And, it was my memories of pleasant experiences that set my mood. So when I suddenly found myself in a situation that demanded action, I was prepared physically, mentally, and spiritually to handle the required tasks.

That summer, we camped in mountains and meadows, by rivers and small streams, by the ocean and in remote wilderness areas far from any man. But then, I needed to return to Spokane to take care of some needed legal business. We camped on the edge of town by the Spokane River. The river was definitely not one you could swim in and the campground was hot, dry, dusty, and dirty. Some dear friends had pixied our camp and left dolls on each sleeping bag for my little ones the night before so my girls had entertained themselves all morning by turning the wicker dog bed into a doll sled. They chained Fluffy to the basket and she obediently pulled the dolls around the campground and through the ashes of the fire pits before the girls tired of that amusement, and I still had two boxes of paperwork to go through.

The children came to me and asked me if they could go swimming in the shower. They were covered with dust and soot so I thought that it was a great idea. They changed into their swim suits and headed for the shower. The day became more pleasant as I heard their songs and laughter drifting through the pine trees to mingle with the sound of the rushing river and I settled back into my task at hand. I think that they had played in the shower for the better part of the afternoon when I finally finished up and started cooking dinner.

About that time, my oldest daughter came back to camp to get their towels and I asked her to take some soap and shampoo back with her requesting that the girls come back clean and ready for the night. She left with the needed supplies and returned shortly to ask for some quarters.

“Quarters, what do you need quarters for,” I asked?

“Hot water cost 25 cents for 5 minutes,” she replied. She then informed me that the water was cold and that they couldn’t take a cold shower. To which I replied that they had been in that cold shower for hours.

Money was tight so I said no and Jamie went back to tell her sisters the news. Then, the sounds of laughter and song were replaced by loud cries and shrieks of dismay because the water was so…. cold. This would have been funny had I not been so worried that someone would turn me in for child abuse.

Since that summer, I have often thought how our thoughts control so much of our life’s experiences. We can not always control what happens in our lives, but we can control our thoughts. I am convinced that it is more our thoughts than our physical circumstances that determine the quality of our lives and this is wonderful news. It means that you have control over the quality of your life.

Syncopated Sunday

May 21, 2007

By Janet Walgren
Today was my syncopated Sunday. It started with 30 minutes of Sacrament Meeting followed by a trip to Tiny Tots to conduct primary for about 30+ severely handicapped children ranging in age from 3 to 25 years old. Most are in wheelchairs, need feeding tubes and can’t walk or talk. When I first started going, I was told that I had received the calling because the Lord wanted me to be happy. It was right after my mother died and a very interesting blessing accompanied the calling.


On my first visit all that I could think of was the smell and the need for Kleenex and bibs. I felt strangely out of place and wondered why so many of the Lord’s choice children were abandoned to such care. Now after a year of service, I can truly say that I have a wonderful time there. When I come in, the faces of the children light up, they smile, and I can see a light in their eyes. It is a conversation without words on their part as I go around and greet each one with a touch, a smile and a gentle word. During singing time today, I was holding a girl’s hand and singing to her. “If you’re happy and you know it, shout hurray!” She smiled at me and let out a squeal and I could tell that she was trying to shout hurray!”

The High Priest group from one of the congregations was assigned to furnish the volunteers today and a whole quorum of stately grandpas showed up. They came early and were well prepared. At least that is what they thought. What they were not prepared for was the way the children touch your heart. There is one little boy who is different. He is about the size of a four year old. Teven can walk with the assistance of a walker, can speak, and is able to express words and feelings with such powerful simplicity that it tugs at your heartstrings.


Today Teven was paired with a sweet gentle sort of man who sat beside him and held his hand. Teven told the man that he wished his friends were here; the man asked Teven who his friends were. Teven said, “I don’t know. Would you be my friend?” The man said yes. Shortly after this exchange, the man was loving Teven with little pats on the head, shoulder, and knees when Teven said, “I know why you’re tickling me. It’s because you’re my friend.” The sweet man started to tear up and it was all that he could do to maintain his composure. By the end of primary, the man was holding little Teven in his arms cradling him like a baby and both hearts had worshipped God. They were changed.


After primary, I raced back to the church, walked into a Sunday school class that was in progress, handed the bishop my tithing envelope, and heard a thirty second sermon. Sister Kjeldsen was teaching the lesson. All I heard was a simple question. “Why is it that we are willing to go to such extraordinary measures to save a mortal life that hangs in the balance and yet are not willing to take the time or make the sacrifice to save a spiritual life that is in jeopardy?” I needed to hear that question to put my Sabbath in to perspective. I rushed off to make the 35 mile trip to attend church with one of my daughters who has been absent from church for seven long years due to her work schedule among other things.


On the 2nd and 4th Sundays of the month, I will be attending the Mormon Tabernacle Choir Sunday broadcast with my daughter whose father-in-law sings in the choir. Then I will go to church with her so that she will not have to go alone.


My syncopated Sabbaths happen on the 1st, 3rd, and 5th Sundays of the month. I love my syncopated Sabbaths with the Tiny Tots, and my Sundays will continue much like today. I have been spiritually fed, and I am happy. Hurray!!!